LOVELAND, Colo. -- A Loveland family is mourning the loss of their son, a brave soldier and compassionate humanitarian.
Army Specialist Gabriel Conde, 22, was killed as a result of enemy small arms fire in Afghanistan on Monday.
Conde enlisted in August 2015 and was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army Alaska, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
His family tells FOX31 that from a very young age their son had one main mission: To make a difference by standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.
They say he defined the word “bravery” and will be deeply missed by those who's lives he touched along the way.
The family, still in shock from the devastating news felt it was important to share their son’s legacy of compassion.
Conde’s father Bob said his son “had a calling to be a warrior.”
Both parents shined with pride as they described the powerful impact their son made on the world.
In addition to serving his country and paying the ultimate sacrifice, Conde also helped those in need abroad, constructing new ways to grow food in villages in Mexico and even building a new playground for children in need.
“He was my protector and my hero," his 15-year-old sister Priscilla said. "He always made sure nobody messed with his little sister, and I miss him.”
Conde leaves behind another sister as well. His mother Donna recounted the last words they shared.
“I said come home alive, he said 'don`t worry mom I will,'" she said. “I feel very proud of who he is. He is the kind of son any mother would be proud to have.”
The close-knit family also spoke of cherished memories of Conde as a child, his father explaining that he loved the story of David and Goliath.
“He would talk in his little boy voice and swing the sling I made for him round and round," Bob Conde said.
The family said their love and faith in God is keeping them strong as they try to cope with this traumatic loss.
The U.S. Department of Defense said the case is still under investigation. It's the first US combat death in Afghanistan since Jan. 1.
Several members of Afghan security forces were also killed. Another U.S. service member was wounded in the operation.
"My thoughts and those of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan are with the families and friends of our fallen and wounded service members ... their valiancy in battle, and that of the brave Afghan partners they fought alongside, will endure in our hearts and history," Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan said in a statement.
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